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Defending the Hunting Act means listening to public opinion

Submitted by on 30 Nov 2010 – 12:10

Photo: The League Against Cruel Sports

By Marcus Papadopoulos
In late 2004, Britain’s position on the international stage as a beacon of civilisation was enhanced when Parliament voted to ban the vile and archaic practice of hunting with dogs in England and Wales.

For over five years now, our wildlife-deer, hares, foxes, cubs and mink-has been protected from the torment of being chased by hunters on horseback and from packs of marauding hounds.

Despite that, however, a return to bloodsports is very much a possibility today as the prospect of a free vote in the House of Commons on repealing the Hunting Act looms.

Discussions to overturn the ban not only fly in the face of morality and humaneness but also ignore the fact that the overwhelming majority of the British public oppose a return to bloodsports.  As Lord Bingham said: The Hunting Act must “be taken to reflect the conscience of a majority of the nation.”

Consecutive opinion polls reveal that three quarters of people in Britain support the Hunting Act, demonstrating that hunting is not, as its advocates contend, a divisive issue in this country.  Further to this, three-quarters of countryside dwellers also oppose hunting, which dispels as nonsensical propaganda talk by hunting supporters that the hunting debate is a town versus countryside issue.

Members of the hunting community and its supporters argue that the Hunting Act is unenforceable.  However, this assertion does not conform to reality.  To date, there have been nearly 140 convictions under the Hunting Act.  Speaking to Government Gazette, David Bowles, Director of Communications at the RSPCA, said that: “Despite what some say that it is not enforceable, a RSPCA study comparing the numbers of prosecutions between three important wildlife laws and the Hunting Act found that the Hunting Act accounts for the most prosecutions and convictions in the period covered. This is despite it being the most recently passed law.  This study shows conclusively that the Hunting Act works and is enforceable and will hopefully put to bed those allegations that it isn’t.”

As with any other piece of relatively new legislation, it will take time for the police and the courts to become fully acquainted with the workings of the Hunting Act.  But the Association of Chief Police Officers has made it very clear that the Hunting Act is a law of the land and is, therefore, to be enforced in accordance with the will of Parliament.

The fact that a hardcore element from within the hunting community is today breaking the law by going out and hunting wild animals is, in no uncertain terms, a case for the repeal of the Hunting Act.  People commit murder, rape and theft, for example; yet this is no reason to contend that the laws prohibiting these acts are not working and should therefore be overturned.

An arrogant and utterly preposterous assertion made by some hunt supporters is that the Hunting Act criminalised the activities of “upstanding members of the community”.  Such an ‘argument’ could have been made in favour of keeping slavery legal in the nineteenth-century.  Furthermore, why is it that a law should not be passed simply because it prohibits a small section of society from indulging itself in an activity that the vast majority of people consider abhorrent?  In short, there should be no place for warped feudal perceptions in twenty-first century Britain.

Politicians, from all parties, should not lose track of the fact that they have been elected to Parliament to serve the public.  This means listening to and abiding by what the vast majority of people want.  In the case of hunting with dogs, the public view is categorically clear: it is barbaric and has no place in a modern, civilised society.

Hunting with dogs has been consigned to history.  Let it remain there.